Sunday, November 28, 2010

Return In The Same Coin You Are Paid

Maybe in 1990 or so, my nephew suddenly appears at my doors of my farm house early in the morning. He came from Bangalore and was working as a sales engineer for Wipro. A workaholic, a hereditary trait running in his blood, did not want to bunk work. It was a Sunday. It was an 8 hours journey by night bus to Shimoga in those days.

If I remember correctly, IT industry was just in its budding stage in late eighties through early nineties before it suddenly galloped at an unbelievable pace. Infosys(software) was in nascent stage and Wipro, a big name in consumer products, had just entered computer hardware business. The trend of campus interview was yet to arrive on the stage. But my nephew was just lucky to get a job in Wipro (Computer Hardware) before he had got his engineering degree.

After putting in seven years service very successfully in Wipro in their Customer Support cell, he was offered a lucrative job in a multinational based in Malaysia, for which he did not apply. America was a far cry. Before blindly grabbing the job he made inquiries with his friends and college colleagues about the working environment in Malaysia. He was given to understand that even though the remuneration was very good, far higher than any Indian company in IT field, there was no respect for employees whatever be his position. They used very bad mouth irrespective of who you are. Bastard, son of a bitch and other choicest abusive words were very common. Ganesh was in a dilemma whether to accept the job and go to Malaysia or continue to work for Wipro. That day, he came to me seeking a kind of counseling, or advice. I counseled him, not to accept or reject the offer but guided him to a lead, a thread in his personality, from which he can make the right decision himself. He rejected the offer.

A few days back I came across a news article in the dailies. I remembered the above incident, while reading the article with awe. The reporting starts as 'The Indian IT Industry usually quietly accepts as a professional hazard the abusive and racist reactions by Americans who accuse it of stealing their jobs'. The article is all about one Sridhar Vembu, an IITian successfully carrying on his software company, Zoho. What is unique about this company is that, Vembu demonstrated his belief that intellect and college education has no connection at all. He selected his first batch of about ten people from High School drop outs with a poor social background, hailing from rural India! He trained them in software according to their intellectual abilities. Today Zoho has grown into a 1200 employee strong IT product company and 10% or 120 of these employees were picked from Govt. Schools with poor back ground. There, of course, are engineering graduates too. Vembu, the CEO of the company wishes to recruit 40 to 50% from Govt. schools in the near future. This fast growing company is only six years old.

So, what is special about this Sridhar Vembu of Chennai? and what is the connection between the incident I mentioned in the opening paragraphs? The newspaper story states " centre agents who are met with abusive customer are instructed to disconnect the call without even returning the fire...." But Vembu after his address to the gathering at the NESCOM Product Conclave in Bangalore recently replied to a question " ...if you don't like to deal with me because of the color of my skin, then fuck you!..." That was in full glare of public!

The news article goes on to discuss the significant change taking place in the IT industry - the departure from the rule book and its impact on the industry. I am not going to discuss that issue here, but as Vembu subsequently says, what it would be to ourselves in place of America, which is in a state of deep economic recession, with the trend of Vietnamese and Bangladeshis are 'stealing' our jobs and the process is on the increase?

Today, Ganesh my nephew is in Mphasis headquartered in Chicago and in charge of entire Europe operations, plying between the continents at least three to four times a month. He never believed in the use of abusive language! He is in his forties and I do don't think he should change his attitude, which brought him enormous professional success. Am I right Ganesh?

Sunday, November 14, 2010


As such I am not a believer in soothsayers and fortune tellers. In fact it was in early eighties when I acquired a copy of a book titled "Living With The Himalayan Masters" on the suggestion of a friend then, actually made me rethink about my beliefs and re-evaluate my values. One thing led to another. A radical shift from light reading to serious thoughtful writings took place, without even my noticing it. From then on the questioning and searching for truth of life is going on and on, without stop till date. I am now in such a state that, I tend to question even Jiddu Krishnamurti, most of whose teachings I have accepted, but not without making my own inquiry. Bertrand Russell is another thinker I like most. In such a sound and rational frame of mind, it is really hard to stop myself from ridiculing these soothsayers and fortune tellers.

I came across a numerologist on the Internet. There was a brief friendship. Just to see the fun of it I gave her my date of birth. Lo! pat came the long reply in return post, of course, with a suggestion to buy an entire guide on my personal 'future'. There ended the matter and friendship!

But what she mentioned in her brief reporting resulting from my birth date numbers really stunned me. I give below a few lines from the report on my birth date numerological reading.

"You were born on a Wednesday under the astrological sign Libra. Your Life path number is 11.

Life Path Compatibility:
You are most compatible with those with the Life Path numbers 2, 4, 8, 11 & 22
You should get along well with those with the Life Path numbers 3 & 6.
You may or may not get along well with those with the Life Path number 9.
You are least compatible with those with the Life Path numbers 1, 5 & 7."
Stunned because I compared the the 'life path number' of the members of my close family with that of mine. The compatibility factor according to numerology resembled very closely with real facts!
Life path number is simply adding up the numbers, stage by stage of your date of birth, wherein month is given the chronological order in the English calender, to finally arrive at single digit. For example if you are born on 12th April, 1987, your life path number is calculated as follows:
Date of birth - 12/04/1987 -> 1+2 = 3
                                                   0+4 = 4
                  1+9+8+7 = 25 -> 2+5 = 7
            Add up total is   14 -> 1+4 = 5
5 is your life path number.
The number 2, according to the numerologist has unique features and it is mentioned as 11/2 or 20/2. Mine is 11/2, on which she gave me the brief profile. Whereas most of the character analysis matched reality, (I do not think the details are relevant here) the part that really stunned me is her account on birth number compatibility factor. As for character analysis, well, she explains positive side and negative side of number 2 (11/2 or 20/2). I think this part of a soothsayer is very important, because every personality has a positive side and a negative side. The way a soothsayer presents it makes all the difference.
As I said earlier, I like the teachings of J.Krishnamurti and the forceful language with powerful satire of Bertrand Russell in questioning all and sundry traditional, cultural and religious values of society. JK says we constantly modify the past to create future, a process that never allows you to live in the present. Neither past is relevant to the present nor the future, if only you are able to isolate yourself in the present where there is nothing known, nothing remembered and nothing foreseen - everything new. And that is supreme fact of life. Where comes foretelling? It is simply an art of psychological manipulation. A well trained psychiatrist can also give you a reasonably probable future after deeply studying your personality traits. And he is actually better placed to analyse compatibility factor. After all, mind is not a rational entity; it is a huge store house of memories - given, experienced, acquired and genetically recorded, all leading to speculate a future, and so irrational. In sum, mind is more of beliefs incapable of facing or seeing the constant change in the present, the only reality. That makes the mind keen to know the future. A state of mind, capable of change, that I call rational. But basically mind dwells on beliefs. And there is no rational belief, all belief is irrational. It is in understanding this very fact of life that makes much sense, because it is impossible to completely change your beliefs. One can only be temporarily rational for a brief period in his thoughts. If at all this happens to you, next time, notice how blissful you are in that rational state of mind, however brief.

And finally this could very much be my belief, yet, in that belief if you please, I am better off.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Magic Of Santoor And Its Maestro

I used to get tremendously attracted to the sound of a string instrument in the 60s but blissfully ignorant and thought it was Sitar! Hindi films used this instrument widely. Every situation, scene and sequences are depicted well by the back ground music in Hindi cinema and this instrument was very prominent whenever there was a romantic scene. In contrast, Sarangi, another string instrument, with suitable tunes to enhance the sadness of a situation, was used in the back ground. Sarangi, well known for its hue of sadness, today is sadly on the verge of extinction simply because there are no master players of this instrument today.

I came to know of the fact that the instrument which attracted me so much was not Sitar but actually quite a different kind of instrument and was called Santoor, rather lately in the 70s when the golden period of Hindi cinema music was in full bloom.

Santoor today, over a period of half a century has become synonymous with the maestro, Pundit Shivkumar Sharma. An ancient instrument of the folk music called the Sufiyana Mousiqui of Kashmir valley, Shivji, as the maestro is fondly called, picked this folk instrument, which was in a crude form, developed it, mastered it and made the Hindustani Classical world richer by recognising it at par with other age old, well established instruments of the genre.

Shivji came into classical Hindustani music at a tender age of five. Born to a Kashmiri pundit in Jammu, his father was a well known vocalist with national recognition. Young Shivkumar, though was interested in Tabla, was initiated into vocals by Pundit Umadutt Sharma, his father. And when the boy was growing, the father suggested him to pick the ancient Shatatantari from folklore, which the boy accepted. Thus the long journey of the instrument into recognition in the world of music started. During the transformation the instrument got its new name - Santoor.

The journey was not easy. In his own words in a recent Interview at Bangalore, Shivji says "When I started playing in a national concert in 1955, it was after a long journey during which I had brought in a lot of character to the instrument and had incorporated a lot of modifications in the playing technique". Not only playing technique,young Shivkumar had struggled a lot with restructuring the instrument too, to enable it to suit the demands of classical form of music; he has even added a few extra strings to produce the required musical notes. The smooth vibrations of the strings produced by striking with a special kind of twig, are highly pleasing to the ears. And the instrument gels easily in the depiction of romantic emotion in human mind, hence the preference in Hindi cinema...perhaps.

Before taking Santoor seriously as a career, the musician was in a dilemma, since by then, he had already mastered tabla and had given public performances. In the same interview he says, "I was learning both vocals and tabla but tabla really fascinated me. In the 50s I played tabla with a lot of artists like Pundit Ravishankar (that legendary sitar player) and Begum Akhtar (known as the Ghazal Queen of her time). At one point of time, I played with both tabla and santoor. But later I had to choose one of them and, I took to santoor"

Santoor is not the only instrument that was promoted to Hindustani Classical grade from folk music. Shehanai is another instrument which has come to that higher level from folklore. Just like Pundit Shivkumar Sharma is synonymous with santoor, late Ustad Bismillah Khan is with shehanai. He too, belonging to a temple musicians' family of Varanasi (Banares), who rendered music at the Kashi Vishwanath Temple, developed the crude form of the trumpet to suit Hindustani Classical.

The pity is, there are no santoor or shehanai player to match these two maestros, at least to my knowledge, making them everlasting synonyms! It is more pitiable that an instrument like sarangi, a most preferred accompaniment by vocalists at one time is on the verge of extinction! Sarangi too, once dominated Hindi cinema music. Maybe because the very sound of the string of sarangi evokes sad notes from the depth of the mind, the instrument itself is pushed for a sad death!

Whereas, santoor evokes romantic mood, the maestro still looks young with his captivating smile! Curly white hair with slight grey hue in full freedom...ah, if you see him, you find it hard to believe that he rendered santoor melody during 50s on national platform and to Hindi cinema during 60s! Long live the magic of santoor and the maestro!!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Scam India Galore

I had written about my obsession with Khushwant Singh writings sometime back. The 95 years old columnist never stops amazing me with his kind of sharp wits and divine sarcasm. Now, of a very few political observers, of late I have started following the writings of M.J.Akbar, who contributes weekly columns to Deccan Herald, which publishes his articles in their editorial page. Apart from his observations, I very much appreciate the kind of language he uses in condemning political chicanery and corruption at high levels. About the latest scam that occupied a lot of space in all national dailies, The Adarsh Housing society scam of Mumbai a few days back, see what language Akbar uses to condemn the higher ups: "Greed is the new religion and all are welcome to feed the trough. Nothing else is sacrosanct; not the highest offices in public service: chief minister, army chief, navy admiral, or top bureaucrat through whom the file must pass. If there is a flat to be stolen in a housing society sanctioned for the welfare of war widows, then every single one of these crooks are ready to cheat the blood of Kargil martyrs......"  Later in the article he writes "....The stink of hypocrisy now permeates through all levels of authority and institutions - like our defence forces - which cannot co-exist with corruption. They will be (either) corrupt or a force; they cannot be both".  How true!

Every one of the top officials in the scam have denied the charge of corruption, - drinking the blood of martyrs who laid their lives in protecting the nation's borders - and the Present chief minister of Maharashtra is going to be the sacrificial lamb just as the Congress did with Suresh Kalmadi not so long back, about the CommonWealth Games. If your memory can go a little further back, they could not find any goat to sacrifice in the 2G spectrum scam simply because they had no ways other than to surrender to Karunanidhi's blackmailing tactics!

India is projected to become the super most power in the world not in far future. India is looked upon as the most successful democracy in the world. What a joke! A petty thief if caught while snatching a woman's gold chain is beaten to death by the angry public in Mumbai. What are they going to do with Ashok Chavan and his party brethren? Let alone beating to death, can they touch them?

Akbar exclaims, "There is no shame left. It is tempting to ask if there is an India left when its ruling class has abandoned every principle". The shame is not only with our ruling class; what about top defence personnel? General (retd) N.C.Vij and General (retd) Deepak Kapoor, Admiral (retd) Madhavendra Singh all have now surrendered the flats telling that at no point of time they had any idea that the flats were meant for the widows of Kargil war martyrs! Who are they fooling? Remember sometime back the Govt. land grab issue of Ex-Chief Justice of Karnataka, Dinakaran? How shamelessly the higher judicial authorites tried to rescue the tainted judicial officer, finally yielding to public anger resulting in his transfer! Is there any shame left? Really?

Quite often I read with disgust the news of stoning women to death publicly as the prescribed punishment of their religious criminal code for the proven crime of adultery in some Islamic countries. I now sincerely feel we, at least in this country are not more civil than these countries practicing barbaric laws in the name of religion. I feel the necessity to have similar penal code for these wretched, shameless cheats and thieves in higher places! These people make us feel ashamed to be an Indian! Are you, Indian, proud to be an Indian?

And the most disturbing fact is, to my knowledge,  not a single politician or bureaucrat has been handed down exemplary punishment in the entire history of independent India! Every scam coming in the open on regular basis is not only bigger than the earlier one but also the involvement of judiciary and defence forces, very disturbing indeed!

भारत माताकी जय!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Happy Deepavali

Let me first of all wish those who visit this page and those who know of my blogs but do not visit often, - A VERY HAPPY DEEPAVALI FULL OF JOY AND LIGHT OF SANITY, WHICH ALONE BRINGS A LOT OF JOY IN LIFE!

Right from this morning I have been receiving Deepavali greetings in my cell phone and there are quite some in my mail box. I reply with a wish to bring joy, peace and satisfaction in life. Yes, I have never wished health, wealth, and prosperity, because, in my opinion, health is there for ever, for everybody and can only be complicated or destroyed through our ways of thinking, our beliefs about life. Wealth beyond certain level - a level that can easily be compared with your people, the society around you - separates you from realities of life, pushing you more and more into loneliness. Prosperity is, well, purely a state of mind created by comparisons. 'He has prospered well' you say about a person. If that person is of about the age of your son, your statement is in comparison with your son. And if it is about a person of your own age, it comes from your own present status, well, the statement could come from either envy or self pity! So I always wish joy and satisfaction.

You may ask if joy and satisfaction also are not a state of mind. Sure, they too are states of mind. And every state of mind is a creation of the mind. Then why wish joy and satisfaction if they are created states of mind? Why not wish wealth, health and prosperity?, if they too are states of mind!

Answer to this question may not not be as simple as I wish it to be. But I can try.

What do you mean by creation? You study something, observe its appeal or effect on human life and then make some tinkering so as to suit that same thing to the changing circumstances. That process of tinkering you call creation! People around you accept it as a great creation of yours. They either have not at all seen the original or have seen casually, without observing.  The original discovery has lost its value; your creation has replaced it. That is what is going on around the world. How many know that Daimler of England who discovered the principle of Four Stroke Internal Combustion Engine before Karl Benz of Germany, died in abject poverty? The latest Audi, BMW or Mercedes models, - creations -are cars all based on this original discovery of four Stroke Internal Combustion Engine.

I still call the original as discovery, not a creation, because the thing was there already in nature; you only identified it. Creation is not possible by human mind simply because mind is a store house of memories - given and experienced - memories and experiences, the basis of the process of learning, acquisition of higher knowledge. A creation cannot be based on memories and experiences, however higher it might be. Creation is absolute, without the least form of influence of anything known.

So, what is the difference between joy and satisfaction in preference to health, wealth and prosperity, when all are created states of mind? In the first place they are actually not creations; they are modifications of existing memories. And it is easier to modify the states of mind regarding health wealth and  prosperity than joy and satisfaction. Joy is already there and it is a matter of cleansing it from our acquired ideas about joy. That cleansing job is very difficult! Satisfaction is not at all a feature of mind; it requires a lot of hard work to realise that when mind becomes capable of shunning acquired values, satisfaction of living surfaces.

I could be wrong, or maybe hard to understand, but I only wish all of you pure, uncontaminated joy of life, which itself is total satisfaction of living on this occasion of DEEPAVALI.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Picturesque Picture of a Moving Picture

Whatever be the dictionary meaning of picturesque, for me the word means a curious, pleasant explanation of a thing, a phenomenon or an experience. Picture is what you know, it also means a state of affairs for me. And that moving picture, which later got cut short to movie,- oh god! how people used to throng to the cinema halls, theatres and tents in cities and the rural India in those early days to see the magic of light and shade!!

I don't remember at what age I saw my first movie in a cinema tent made of bamboo and coconut palms in my little town in South Kanara, coastal Karnataka, but I do remember the thrill of walking a couple of kilometers to see the magic on the big screen. In my town and at the neighboring little bigger town, there were two such 'Tent Cinema'. Both were situated at midway between these two places making people of both towns to walk or cycle the distance. For us, little children in those days, cinema, film, movies, talkies and picture made practically no difference; they all were a magic of light and shade in pitch darkness on a white screen - black & white were the only colors. And I was a little unfortunate not to have the experience of seeing dumb movies, because I was born a bit late when Einstein had already invented the Photo Electric Cell, the basis of sound in a moving picture. But I am lucky to experience the thrill of colour coming to movies in stages. First it was only scenes of dance, war and song sequences were coloured, then, later on the entire film. I am not sure, but I think the first colouring of a film was done manually, laboriously, which could be the reason it was only selected scenes in the movies that were coloured.

Why, even colour photography came to India only in the mid 1970's! All the photographs of my marriage in 1970 were in black & white! Soon a process of coloring black & white photographs (hard copies, then called the positives and the actual films, the negatives!) became a new trend. I had learnt this process of colouring photographs as an amateur hobby and had coloured quite a few photos! A small book containing color strips was used for this. These are called transparent colors. A piece of a color strip was dipped in water to get the level of required concentration and then the coloured water was lightly brushed on the surface of the photo. It was quite a skillful art requiring wasting and distorting photos before perfecting the art. Contrast this with today's Photoshop tools!

Then came colour films in the market costing several times more than black & white. Processing service of colour films was available only at cities like Bangalore. Amateur photographers like me would deliver the roll-film to the local studio, which in turn send the film to Bangalore for processing making me eagerly wait for more than a fortnight to get the developed copies along with the 'negative'. There were no courier services in those days and one had to depend on Indian P & T parcel services, who took their own sweet time to deliver! Since the hobby was very costly in those days, I did not dare to order hard copies for all the shots. I would wait to see the developed film and then decide which and how many copies to order, which again took a fortnight's time. Compare this with today's digital technology! Still the fun and pleasure of the costly hobby is incomparable.

An amateur camera then cost more than a reasonably good digital camera with optical zoom today if one takes into consideration of the declined money value! (The value of a rupee then was equivalent to almost a kilogram of good quality rice!). First it was all German brands, mainly Agfa and Kodak. Then cheaper Japanese brands, mainly Yashica swept the amateur market and later slowly but firmly breaking the hold of German professional cameras. Yashica introduced competent professional brands at nearly half the prices of German brands. I started my hobby with a Kodak Box camera (now donated to an antic collector), upgraded to an Agfa Isolette and finally ended up with the magical Yashica 124 (SLR) model for which I paid a whopping Rs.4,500/-! (Remember, that kind of money could buy at least 30 quintals of rice, if not more, then!). Rolliflex, costing upwards of Rs.10,000/-, I think from Kodak gallery was the ultimate pride of a professional photographer. All are now an antic collector's items!

In movies, first came the 'Technicolor' technology. Then there was Gevacolor and Eastman color. Finally Eastman became more in vogue. I do not exactly know of the coloring technology of those days. The last movie I saw in a theatre was "Mr. India", with my wife and children, then in different grades of school and college; perhaps in 1990 or so!

In a tent cinema, there were three categories - matted or loose sand laid floor in the front near the screen, Bench (backless long wooden seats my dear!) and then the majestic chairs laid at the farthest from the screen. Ticket was four and half annas (0.27 rupee) for 'floor', bench cost 6 annas (0.38 rupee) and chairs a whopping 14 annas (0.87 rupee). In regular cinema halls at Mangalore, the nearest city for us, there were two categories below the balcony seats - front 6 annas and rear 10 annas. Balcony seats were at a premium, one rupee four annas or Rs. 1.25. All seats were chairs - plain wooden below and cushioned in the balcony. In bigger theatres balcony had two categories - front rows for Rs. 1.25 and rear rows (usually only a couple of rows) for Rs. 1.75. A few special seats were available for dignitaries and they were called 'cabin' seats; a few separate cabins each containing 6 to 8 seats to accommodate a family, on two sides of the projector room. One had to take a full cabin and a seat would work out to anywhere from Rs. 3 to 4. Most of the times these cabins were reserved for political and other dignitaries; common man however rich except a relative of the theatre owner would not get cabins!

During my college days (1961 to 65) at Mangalore we used to pay Rs. 1.25 on average for a movie show. Soon after my graduation, when I joined my first job in Delhi in 1966, it was the shock of my life - a mind boggling Rs. 4.50 for a movie show! (Mind you, I was drawing a princely Rs. 195/- per month as salary)

First it was only Tamil movies with occasional Hindi films during my school days at town, because a good number of common movie goers were speaking a unique language called the 'Beary' language. This language was nearer to Dravidian languages. So Tamil was most preferred, also could be it was far cheaper than Hindi for the operators. And Kannada, the state language films were not well developed and in rural areas in South Kanara, where the predominant languages were Tulu and Konkani, and Kannada was only the third spoken language even though the name of the district was Dakshina Kannada (South Kanara) and the state language is Kannada. So to say, South Kanara is home for a variety of spoken languages. There are at least three variations or dialects of Kannada and two to Konkani. Tulu, a Dravidian language, of course is widely spoken. And that could be the reason for Tamil preference for films in my town. In fact in those days, I used to speak fluent, chaste Tamil learnt only through cinema! Later, during college days American Quickies became my favourite though I saw more of Hindi films.

I think the seventies decade and the earlier part of eighties was golden period of Indian cinema. That scintillating Hindi film music evoking a lot of emotions with unforgettable tunes can never happen again! Even the newest generation people, even whose parents were not born when the songs were composed are having a collection of those old Hindi songs. The evergreen voices of the play back singers, the composition based on classical music to suit the actual moods and emotion of a particular sequence in the story line of the cinema..... oh! that is simply a long lost dream now! Even other language films of that period were memorable. Kannada and Tamil songs of the seventies are still wringing in my ears evoking nostalgia. Clint Eastwood movies of that period are very enjoyable even today. Audrey Hepburn is another great memory tickler. There were hundreds of great actors both in the west and east, whom the present day players hardly match the skills of their acting, when technology was at the lowest ebb.

The story of moving picture moves on and on, endlessly; let me stop for now.